Day Sixty-Four – Oscar Predictions: Screenplays

5 03 2010

The Screenplay category doesn’t get nearly enough respect come Oscar time. It’s the glue that holds the picture together or the wrecking ball that completely tears it apart. Realistically, if you don’t win the Screenplay Oscar, you shouldn’t even qualify to win Best Picture. Avatar has a chance to break this unwritten rule, as Titanic did with its win, since it’s not even nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category.

I didn’t get through all the screenplays quite yet, but I have seen majority of the movies nominated so I’m making my predictions that way.

Here are the pictures that are:

Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson & Tom McCarthy, Up
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

When I was in film school, I remember reading  that Tarantino was finally going to move forward with his long awaited Inglourious Basterds. Many years later, it’s finally out and it was definitely worth the wait. No one else is able to create as much tension as Tarantino with only two people sitting in a room, chatting over a glass of milk. I’m not a Tarantino die-hard at all. I haven’t really liked much of his work since Pulp Fiction, but this film, and screenplay, made me a fan once again. Such skill and craft in the writing that can’t be duplicated.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, In the Loop
Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

Jason Reitman is easily becoming one of my favorite film-makers ever. When he writes a screenplay, they are so perfectly crafted. There isn’t a wasted word in Up in the Air or his prior screenplay Thank You for Smoking. Every word of dialogue is either there for plot or to shed light on the main character. Regardless of what they are saying or who is saying it, every single word and every single action serves a purpose. It would be horrible if anything but Up in the Air took the win for this category.

I thought I’d have more to say about this category, but I’m getting it up here pretty late. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about these films in the future. Those are my predictions for now.

Next: Acting.


Day Fifty – Powering Through

19 02 2010

Writer’s block is an interesting concept. It’s an excuse for an excuse to not write. It’s true that sometimes I have a hard time coming up with something to write, but that’s because I’m thinking of something less hard to do. Still, writer’s block is basically not wanting to write. There’s only one solution:


Write whatever is in your head. Just start writing, get all the junk out of the way and eventually you’ll find what you wanted to write about. Today is Day 50 of 365. I could have claimed I had writer’s block on at least 30 of those, but I just powered on through. 

This was my ideal writing space for a while, until policy changed and my time in here was limited.

By forcing myself to write every day, I’ve found writer’s block to become less and less of a problem. Using this blog as a way to get my finger tapping the keys, I get my mind working. The brain is like a muscle, and until lately, it hasn’t been getting much exercise. Much like the rest of my body.

Up until a little while ago, I lost my willingness to make that push to get something down on the blank page. I had a million excuses. I was too busy. I should be looking for a different door to get my foot in. I was waiting for the inspiration to hit my like a dodgeball in gym class.

My most productive time was when I was working projection at an old movie theatre. There were only six screens, so once the shows were started, I had about an hour to myself. I would have only the light reflecting of the walls from the projectors to light my pen and paper. I would have tons of ideas for screenplays, TV shows, novels, comics.

I actually managed to get a couple of specs done, too. I sent them out to Hollywood with such hope and the rejections were sent right back. That was a first excuse of many to wait for something better to appear.

Management changed at the theatre and that productive writing hour was now taken up with running up and down the stairs doing two jobs. I never wrote as much as I did then.

The good news is the intention of this blog is starting to take effect. That constant drive to have something down has spilled over to Final Draft. I haven’t been this excited to write since I was in film school. I’m starting to write more and more. I have 25 pages down on my latest screenplay, with more to come real soon.

Thanks to the 5 of you who manage to visit the site every day or so. I started this blog to exercise my writing and didn’t expect anyone to check it out more than once. Thanks for sticking around. Makes it even more worthwhile to drive towards that arbitrary goal I set for myself.

Hopefully by 100 posts, the screenplay will be done and these habits I’m developing will stick.

Day Thirty-Seven – Better Late Than…

6 02 2010

So it finally happened. I wasn’t able to keep up with my deadline of having a new post everyday, after doing so for 36 days.

Though I was pretty busy today, not with anything important, but with movie-screenings and UFC 109. The main excuse for not having anything ready was I hit a case of Writer’s Block.

Straight out of the dishwasher.

The Mug hissed at me today, feeling the irony once again.

I hit a wall. I couldn’t convince myself to do anything at all, so I did nothing. I wrote about Telefilm, the NFB and the UFC, but nothing seemed good enough. Nothing seemed like it was right.

And that’s the main thing that you need to get over Writer’s Block. Just give up on trying to write something that feels right and just write through it. Sure, you won’t write anything too spectacular, but you’ll get the train rolling again, and that’s what’s important at the end of the day. Getting words on the page. Or, in this case, on the screen.

The fear of not being good enough is enough to cripple anyone into submission. Yet, that’s the key right there. Don’t give into the fear. Just keep pushing forward. It’s something I’m still learning to do today.

The year I finished film school, I wrote two spec scripts, one for Entourage and another for Smallville. Reading them today, I can tell that I’ve improved from then. Still, back then, this was my ticket to Hollywood. My first try, I would be called up and on the WB lot in no time.

I sent my screenplays through Canada Post the day they were due and waiting with anticipation for my letter to come in the mail, inviting me to hang out with Spielberg and Scorsese. Instead, I got a kindly worded letter telling me I needed some work.

I took that note and stored it away, thinking it was just a small stumbling block. Instead, it was a road block. Deep down, I must have let it get to me, because I never completed a screenplay beginning to end that I didn’t scrap immediately.

I’m learning to power through it. I’m learning not to let the kindly worded rejection get to me. I’m learning to get over my fear and just do it.

Just write…like that.

Day Twenty-Four – The Usual Suspects Ruined in 24 Hours

24 01 2010

24 jumped the shark a long time ago, but that hasn’t stopped me from getting hooked every season. Predicting what’s coming has been worked down to a science. By trying to be too clever, it fell into a weird formula.

Basically, pick the least likely person to be the traitor; the boyfriend, the analyst, the CTU boss – that’s your terrorist. It’s the case almost without fail. Least likely is the most likely on 24.

It’s not just this show that has that routine. Prison Break did it to a ridiculous degree. Is that guard going to see them walking through the hallway? No, he’s not going to see them at all. Is that murderer going to attack them? No, he’s going to hold the door open and pat them on the back with a “good luck” for all.

The most famous example of this theory is The Usual Suspects. I didn’t see it until years after watching 24. My theory was on auto-pilot by the time Keyser Soze’s name was ever muttered to me. The theory took all of the excitement out of the picture. I was almost offended by how clear the twist was.

I realize that The Usual Suspects pre-dates 24, but the twists in 24 at least attempt to add relative complexity. You can be sure of your suspect, and you’d be right 90% of the time, but at least there is consistant misdirection.

Regardless of how easily the twists are dismantled, 24 remains entertaining based on their slight variations to the formula each season. They’ve finally accepted that fact; if the recaps on Fox’s YouTube channel are any indication. See them at the bottom of the post. They’ve fully embraced the ridiculousness of the show, knowing it’s become less the serious commentary on the war on terror and more of the popcorn entertainment it should have always been.

Few shows manage to keep my as on edge, ready to see the next hour as much as 24. Looking to take the mantle of the prime-time action movie is Human Target, which was the lead in for the premiere of this season of 24. The action is gritty and real. The effects are that of a blockbuster movie. Most importantly of all, the theory works to full effect.

Here’s the recap of last Sunday’s episodes of 24:

And the recap of last Monday’s episodes of 24: